(File photo of the Upton house on Upton Road from Landmark Society of Genesee County.)
There ought to be a historical marker on the site of the boyhood home of swashbuckling Civil War-era Major General Emory Upton.
That's what Genesee County Historian Michael Eula thinks, and it's why he asked members of the Human Service Committee on Monday for permission to apply for grant funds to pay for a marker at 9244 Upton Road in the Town of Batavia. Members unanimously agreed to grant permission.
Eula plans to apply for the Historic Roadside Marker Grant Program offered by The William G. Pomeroy Foundation, which since 2006 has funded more than 282 markers in 46 New York counties. If awarded, the grant will provide $1,000 for a standard historical marker, mounting pole and shipping costs.
The Upton Road house which features stunning, leaded windows of stained glass and beleved crystal, was built in 1823 by Emory's parents, Daniel and Electa Upton. His sister, Sarah Upton Edwards, updated the house in 1890 to the shingle style it is now. (In 2011, the Landmark Society of Genesee County presented current owners Joan Bird and William Steininger with awards for Interior Renovation and Stained Glass Window Restoration.)
Emory was Daniel and Electa's 10th child, their sixth son. After growing up on the farm, he studied at Oberlin College under famed evangelist Charles Finney and was then admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1856. (He had his face slashed there in a sword fight in cadet barracks, said to have begun over offensive remarks made about his relationship with African-American girls at Oberlin College.)
His patinated likeness in full regalia looms large at the monument on the city's westside where Main Street and Ellicott Street join. But there's actually little heft to his biographical record, according to Eula, who told the committee that outside of a thin and rather superficial biography written by Stephen E. Ambrose, "Upton and the Army," little has been written about the man himself.
His brilliant and impactful career as an influential Army reformer, war tactician, military strategist and policy maker is well documented in compendiums, magazine articles, and through his own authorship.
This includes a book called "The Life and Letters of Emory Upton," which includes the meticulously deciphered and transcribed letters that Emory wrote during his worldwide travels to Persia, Turkey, India, China and Russia where he feasted opulently with royalty, how else, and met with great leaders at the behest in 1875 of General William Tecumseh Sherman.
Both the book of letters and the Ambrose book are out of stock currently at the Holland Land Office Museum, but they were reordered a week or so ago and should be back on the shelves soon.
If the Pomeroy Foundation approves the grant, there would be a ceremony featuring veterans groups at the dedication ceremony, Eula said.
With all the documentation about Upton available in Genesee County, and given the lack of a meaty tome about his life, will a book be forthcoming? That's the question Committee Chair Rochelle Stein asked Eula.
"I don't want to promise something I can't deliver," Eula replied, not altogether convincingly. He did acknowledge talking about the prospect with other local historians, and it's clear he deems the subject worthy of the effort.